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Chemical Recycling: A Dangerous Deception

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Beyond Plastics & International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) have published a new report on “chemical” or “advanced” recycling:

Chemical recycling — or what the industry likes to call “advanced recycling” — is increasingly touted as a solution to the plastic waste problem, but a landmark new report from Beyond Plastics and IPEN shows this technology hasn’t worked for decades, it’s still failing, and it threatens the environment, the climate, human health, and environmental justice. This comprehensive report features an investigation of all 11 constructed chemical recycling facilities in the United States, their output, their financial backing, and their contribution to environmental pollution.

The petrochemical and plastics industries have been aggressively working across America to pass state laws that reclassify chemical recycling facilities as manufacturing rather than waste facilities, which reduces regulation of these polluting plants and allows the companies to grab more public subsidies. As of this report’s release, 24 states have passed such laws. Just like mechanical recycling, chemical recycling is an industry marketing tactic to distract from the real solution to the plastic problem: reducing how much plastic is produced in the first place. 

Deregulating and incentivizing chemical recycling is a dangerous trend with environmental and human health repercussions, though it’s not surprising when you consider how little information is publicly available about what chemical recycling actually does, how it does it, who it affects, how little plastic it removes from the waste stream, and how little product is actually produced. 

This report unmasks chemical recycling’s history of failure, its lack of viability, and its harms so that others, especially lawmakers and regulators, can see this pseudo-solution for what it is: smoke and mirrors.

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